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Sweet Bread Recipe (Basic Sweet Yeast Dough)

This sweet bread recipe makes a beautiful, soft, lightly sweetened and buttery bread loaf that’s delicious as a toast with your morning coffee or tea. Top it with some butter and jam and it’s as good as any cake or dessert! Lots of butter and egg yolks keep this bread recipe perfectly soft for a while. But, if you have leftovers they make amazing french toast or a french toast casserole. Anyways you slice it, it’s a winner!

If you love bread, make sure to also check out this brioche bread, easy no-knead bread and bread maker bread – all staple recipes that I use very frequently.

Sweet Bread Braid sprinkled with sesame seeds on a baking sheet.

If you’ve ever had Challah or brioche bread, this one is very similar. Warm out of the oven you’ll be fighting every fiber of your being not to eat the whole thing! You’ve been warned 😉

This recipe is also the same exact one I use when I make any kind of filled buns or pastries or rolls. One batch will give you about 16 good sized buns of your choice.

Things to make with this sweet yeast bread dough recipe:

Proofed sweet bread dough in a glass bowl on a board with a tea towel around.

Sweet Bread Ingredients:

Scroll to the bottom for full printable recipe and instructions.

The basis for any good bread is good and unexpired yeast. I use active dry yeast or Platinum Superior Baking yeast. The later always produces better-baked goods with more of a rise without collapsing when out of the oven.

Also, anytime I make yeast goods I use Canadian flour. It is higher in gluten than regular American all-purpose flour which yields better results, especially in this sweet bread recipe. A good alternative for Canadian flour will be bread flour.

How to make Sweet Bread Recipe

  • Start by ensuring that your yeast is active by dissolving the active dry yeast in warm milk and leaving it in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes. If the yeast has foamed up and risen slightly then you’re good to go. Otherwise, discard the yeast and do not start this yeast bread with the recipe until you have unexpired active yeast.

Step by step pictures of yeast and milk mixture before and after rising.

Make the dough

  • To a mixer bowl add the sifted flour, sugar, sour cream (pic 1), remaining milk and the risen yeast mixture (pic 2).
  • Knead on low speed using the hook attachment until the dough somewhat comes together (pic 3).
  • Then turn up the speed slightly and continue kneading until it becomes very stretchy and tacky to touch. Add the butter and salt (pic 4) and knead it into the dough. Sometimes, tearing the dough into chunks helps to incorporate the butter (pic 5).
  • The dough is well kneaded when you’re able to stretch a piece of the dough into a thin film/window without it tearing. This is called a “windowpane test” and it means that the gluten is well developed and will hold up the structure of the dough as yeast fills it with air bubbles.

Step by step pictures to making the sweet bread yeast dough recipe

Proof & Shape

  • Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel (pic 7) and allow to proof until doubled in size (pic 8).
  • Next, dust your work surface with flour (pic 9) and add the dough (pic 10).

    This recipe makes one large braid, if you wish to have smaller bread loaves divide the dough into two and braid 2 braids instead of one.

    Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces – this is best done by weighing the dough (pic 11). Shape each piece into a tight ball, then roll into a 20-inch rope ( pic 12).

  • Pinch the three ends together then shape a tight braid finishing by pinching the ends together again. Tuck both ends of the braid slightly underneath itself for better visual appeal.
  • Carefully transfer the braid to a baking sheet (pic 13) and leave in a warm, draft-free place to proof until doubled in size ( pic 14).
  • Then, brush with a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds (pic 15) or poppy seeds (optional).

Step by step pictures of the yeast dough rising, then being shaped into a braid.

Bake

  • Bake in a preheated to 350F oven for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is evenly golden brown in color. Another way to ensure that the sweet bread is baked through is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the middle. It should register 195F when the bread is ready.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting or serving.

Sweet Bread Braid with sesame seeds sprinkled on top, fresh out of the oven on a baking sheet with a towel around.

How to store this bread loaf?

Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or cut the sweet bread in half and store in a gallon-sized ziplock bag for up to a week. If not planning to eat within a day or two, it is best to freeze it after tightly wrapping the bread loaf.

To thaw, leave on the counter until completely thawed or microwave in 30-second intervals until it’s soft and no longer frozen. Or, place in a preheated to 350F oven for about 10 minutes for that fresh-out-of-the-oven taste.

Other Yeast Baked Goods to try:

Sweet Bread Recipe

4.67 from 6 votes

This sweet bread recipe makes a beautiful, soft, lightly sweetened and buttery bread loaf that’s delicious as a toast with your morning coffee or tea.

Author: Marina | Let the Baking Begin
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American, Russian
Keyword: easter bread, pascha
Calories: 183 kcal
Servings: 16 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 tsp active dried yeast (I use Platinum Superior Baking Yeast)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (bread flour or Canadian flour works best)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, softened, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Egg wash (whisk together)

  • 3 to 4 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

Instructions

  1. Check the yeast: (see footnotes if you'd like to make this dough in the breadmaker)

    Dissolve 2 tsp of active dried yeast with 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp of sugar from the overall amount and leave in a warm location until frothy, about 10-15 minutes. If the mixture does not froth up and rise, discard the yeast and start over when you have a fresh batch of dried yeast.

  2. Knead:

    Into a bowl of a mixer sift 3 cups of flour. Then add 1/3 cup sugar, remaining 1/2 cup warm milk, 4 egg yolks, 2 tbsp sour cream, 1 tbsp vanilla extract and the risen yeast mixture. Mix with a paddle attachment on low speed until it comes together, then switch to a kneading hook and knead for about 20 minutes or until the dough is elastic, tacky to touch and you're able to stretch a piece of dough into a thin "window without it tearing.

    Add 3 oz of butter and 1/4 tsp of the salt and knead it into the bread until no streaks of butter are seen, about 5-7 minutes. Sometimes tearing the dough into chunks helps to incorporate the butter easier.

  3. 1st Proofing:

    Oil the sides of the bowl and the dough, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours. I preheat the oven at 200F for 2-3 minutes then turn it off and place the bowl into the oven with the heat off. This gives the dough a nice warm place without being too hot. Be careful not to overheat the oven as anything over the temp of 100F will kill the yeast instead of allowing it to proof.

  4. Shape:

    This recipe makes one large braid. To make two smaller bread loaves divide the dough into two, then shape 2 separate braids instead of one like the recipe instructs to.

    Once risen, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Weighing the dough is the best way to divide the dough evenly. Roll each piece into a tight ball, then into a 20-inch log. Pinch the ends of the 3 logs together at one end, then braid them into a braid pinching the three ends together at the end as well. Tuck both ends of the braid underneath itself slightly to give it a better shape.

  5. 2nd Proofing:

    Transfer to a 12"x18" baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and transfer to a warm place once again until the braid doubles in size. You can repeat the trick with preheating the oven slightly once again (be very careful that the temp does not rise higher than 100F inside the oven while proofing).

  6. Once doubled in size remove from the oven and preheat the oven to 350F with the baking rack in the middle.

    Brush the braid with a beaten egg yolk and water and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds if you wish. Applying the egg yolk mixture several times will give you a darker glaze once baked.

  7. Bake the braid for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden in color and/or the inside of the sweet bread registers 195F. If the top starts to brown before the inside registers 195F loosely tent the bread with foil.

    Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting or eating.

Recipe Notes

Sweet Bread Recipe for Breadmaker

If you'd rather make the dough in the bread maker add the ingredients in the following order: milk, active dry yeast, vanilla extract,  room temperature butter, salt, egg yolks, sour cream, flour, sugar. Turn the bread maker to a 1.5 hour dough cycle and allow it to run through. Then, continue with steps 4 and beyond.

Nutrition Facts
Sweet Bread Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 183 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 75mg25%
Sodium 86mg4%
Potassium 71mg2%
Carbohydrates 24g8%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 248IU5%
Calcium 46mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Marina | Let the Baking Begin

Welcome to Let the Baking Begin! I'm Marina and my love and passion for eating only the most delicious foods drive me to share that love here on Let the Baking Begin (since 2009). With over 20 years of experience in the kitchen, you know the recipes are tested and retested until perfect. I'm so happy to have you here. Enjoy! Read more...

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  • michelle

    Can the sour cream be left out for this recipe? Can’t wait to try this recipe, looks really yummy!

    · Reply
  • Roger

    Tried this recipe today for the first time…… Excellent, great instructikns for a perfect bread. Looking forward to making it again.

    · Reply
  • Angelina

    I want to make this sweet bread with both: dryed cranberries and raisin. When do you think I should add them?

    · Reply
    • You can add them at the end of the kneading cycle. Just make sure that if you let them plump in some liquid, that you blot it with a paper towel before adding it to the dough. Otherwise you will be adding too much liquid to the dough and the dough can become runny.
      P.S. white chocolate chips are also a great addition to this sweet yeast bread, adds a nice carameliness if that’s a word 🙂

      · Reply
  • Natasha

    Oh. My. Goodness. My bread came out EXACTLY as pictured. Each step was executed as written and I am in LOVE with this recipe. Thank you!! My home smells like a bakery. ❤️ I can’t attach a photo but took one and it looks exactly like yours so thank you!

    · Reply
  • Ellemack

    YOU can change your life when you try something new! #covid-19 lbs! Out of the oven 10 minutes and half gone!

    · Reply
  • Eudy

    Hi, can I use SAF instant yeast instead od the dry yeast? Should I still have to proof the yeast if I use the instant yeast

    · Reply
  • Joni R

    Looks wonderful! How would I use this recipe for rolls? Thanks!

    · Reply
  • sherry

    My egg bread turned out great! Everyone loved it and will definitely make it again. “nothing beats homemade fresh bread”

    · Reply
  • Vanessa

    Thanks for sharing! Does it keep long?

    · Reply
    • It keeps for a while. If you want it to stay fresh the longest, I would freeze whatever you think you might eat right away,then thaw in the fridge or the microwave before eating it. Toasting a slice is always nice.

      Wrapped, at room temperature it keeps for at least a week.

      · Reply
  • Suzanne

    This looks so good! Could I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream?

    · Reply
  • Margaret Coffey

    Hi, when using the bread machine,, on the classic bread , can you add more sugar? Do you have a yeast bread that is a little sweet? My friend from west Virginia made the best bread, but it was a little sweet and so fluffy. Can you help a old lady? Thanks

    · Reply
    • Hi Margaret,
      Have you tried this recipe? It is somewhat sweet and definitely fluffy, but if you want to you can add a little more sugar (no more than 1/4 cup more) to make it sweeter. Hope this helps!

      · Reply
  • Pooja

    Similar to the other comments the bread tasted good but it was wide and thin. It was also a very difficult dough to work with and braid.

    · Reply
    • The dough will be hard to work with if it was too hot in the room, or the dough was over-kneaded and the bonds between the gluten strands were broken. This will make the end result crumbly instead of soft and fluffy.

      When you’re kneading the dough it should be very soft, but not runny. If it’s runny, just add a couple tablespoons of flour at a time until it’s very soft, but no longer runny.

      · Reply
  • Renee

    This recipe is the best and Completely fool-proof thanks to the amazing instructions! Thank you! This recipe is a keeper!

    · Reply
  • Carol Lum

    Thank you! I’ll try the double braid stacking the next time.

    BTW In the recipe notes for the bread machine please add the vanilla.

    · Reply
  • Carol

    My family loved this recipe. I made it twice in two days in a bread machine. So easy! Flavor and texture is amazing. Soft, pillowy and has a mildly sweet flavor.
    I did run into the same issue as the other feedback. Both times I made it, it came out a little wide and flat but still soft and edible. That didn’t stop my family from eating it. It was gone as soon as it came out of the oven. Will add extra flour the next time. Its a keeper! Thank you!

    · Reply
    • Hi Carol, Thank you so much for sharing your feedback!
      Yes, you can either add more flour to the dough, or you can make two braids and stack them one on top of the other. Use 2/3 of the dough for the bottom braid, and 1/3 for the top. Stacking them on top of each other will give you more rounded and taller braid. And, as I’ve mentioned in the other comment, make sure not to ovenproof it – that will make it flow out and not up.

      · Reply
  • Magda

    Hey! The bread came out tasting amazing but it came out wide and thin so I was wondering if there was something I could do to make it rise / bake taller rather than thinner?

    · Reply
  • Julia

    Could you mix this recipe by hand? Or is a mixer recommended?

    · Reply
    • It is kind of sticky when mixing, that’s why it’s easier with a mixer, but if you don’t mind the stickiness you can mix it by hand. Or add about 1/2 cup more flour to make it easier to mix by hand.

      · Reply
  • Luba

    Thank you Marina for such a great recipe !!!!! Entire family loved it. Super easy and delicious ! I make a lot of your recipes just never comment .

    · Reply

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